More than seven years after a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped in a moving bus in Delhi, four men convicted for the brutal assault were hanged on early Friday morning. The four convicts – Akshay Kumar Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh were hanged at 5:30 am at Delhi’s Tihar Jail, hours after the Supreme Court refused to grant them relief and stay their executions.
Six men were accused of gang-raping and murdering the 23-year-old medical student, who came to be called Nirbhaya. Of the six, four were convicted, one was a juvenile, who got convicted by the juvenile justice board. Accused Ram Singh committed suicide in jail even before his conviction. The juvenile later served three years in a reformation home and was released.
The juvenile belonged to a village some 240 km away from the national capital where his elder sister looks after the family of six. He left home at the age of 11 and worked with Ram Singh as a cleaner in his bus
After the heinous incident, the juvenile was arrested and sent to a rehabilitation home for three years in North Delhi’s Majnu Ka Tila as he was less than 18 years of age. The reports suggested that the juvenile was ‘one of the most brutal’ among all the accused as he attacked the victim with an iron rod. However, a Juvenile Justice Board brushed aside all the allegations and called it ‘media hype’.
The juvenile’s case was one of the most debated topics across the country as citizens had demanded that the juvenile rapist be tried in the case an adult since it was a heinous crime. However, he was never charged as an adult. Later, due to the public outcry, the possibility of booking juveniles as adults in case of a heinous crime emerged. Subsequently, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 was passed in which juveniles in the age group of 16–18, involved in heinous offences, can be tried as adults.
In 2015, according to intelligence officials, it was suspected that the juvenile had been radicalised because he shared his cell with another juvenile who was involved in the Delhi High Court blast case. An inquiry was undertaken by the Intelligence Bureau after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy wrote to PM Narendra Modi that he had learnt from police sources that the Nirbhaya convict had become an “Islamic fundamentalist/jihadi.
In November 2015, a month before he was going to be released, Nirbhaya’s family demanded that the juvenile’s identity be made public, keeping in mind the safety threat posed by him. “From what we have learnt from the media, he has shown no signs of improvement so far. He was getting indoctrinated in jihad inside his juvenile home. The police had said he has become street smart and learnt to abuse the system,” Nirbhaya’s father had said. However, the identity of the juvenile rapist was never revealed.
On December 20, 2015, despite massive public outcry, the juvenile was released from the correction home after he completed three years. A day before his release, he was sent to a secret location due to security reasons.
Just days prior to the release of the juvenile, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government had unveiled a rehabilitation plan for the juvenile under which the AAP government had decided to give him a one-time financial grant of Rs 10,000 and arrange for a sewing machine so that he can rent a tailoring shop. The move had provoked objections from the civil society and the government, who remained apprehensive about his mental condition and wanted his detention extended.
After his release, the juvenile was taken to an NGO which rehabilitated him in South India. A Hindustan Times report from 2017 states that he was working as a cook in South India at that point in time.